#OscarSoWhite. That’s the controversial hashtag that has been trending over the past couple of days since Thursday morning’s diversity-stricken announcement of the 2015 Academy Award nominations.
Given that this is Hollywood, I’m sad to say that this isn’t too surprising. As Chris Rock can tell you, there are far too few people of color in the entertainment industry– and let’s not even begin to mention the gender inequality that’s been present since God knows when. But for a while there, there seems to have been a sliver of hope for the growing number of minorities in the movie-making biz.
Last year’s Oscars were a banner year with 12 Years a Slave taking home the award for Best Picture and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o winning for Best Supporting Actress. Mexican film director Alfonso Cuaron was also recognized for his production Gravity. Rewind back several years and we can remember Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s not one, but two, Best Director wins for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi. Actors Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, and Javier Bardem have all garnered Oscar nods (and wins), as have actresses such as Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Hailee Steinfeld, and of course, Nyong’o. For over two decades, every year preceding 2014 has had at least one non-white person nominated in the four acting categories.
So yes, performance-wise, this will be a particularly pale year for the Oscars– the whitest since 1998. Instead of progress, the general consensus is that we’re regressing further and further back.
What’s particularly frustrating is that we have, at least in another part of the industry, seen great strides being made towards racial and gender equality– especially in the last year. In the wonderful world of television, it’s been all about diversity, with numerous programs like How To Get Away With Murder, Cristela, Black-ish, Empire, and the upcoming midseason entry Fresh Off The Boat (the first Asian-American sitcom since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl twenty years ago). Oh, and just last week, Gina Rodriguez made headlines with her truly unexpected Golden Globes win– a first for The CW. NBD, right? Um, huge deal!
Major and cable networks alike have all begun to embrace the melting pot that is America and it’s been more than refreshing to see a drastic increase in cultural representation come so fully to life. In a moving and memorable acceptance speech, Rodriguez pretty much sums up how these advances have caused a ripple effect of positive change that’s “needed, especially in a time when we have a society that is so diverse and so beautiful and so human.”
“Thank you God for making me an artist … um … [tears, gasps, applause] … This award is so much more than myself, it represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes. My father used to tell me every day to say, ‘Today’s a great morning; I can and I will. Oh, Dad, today’s a great morning — I can, and I did.”
Yes, she absolutely did. And for the most part, the small screen has done incredible things to progress towards diversity. In 2013, a record number of Emmy nods were given to women directors. And though the actual DGA statistics detailing women working as directors in television remain stubbornly, infuriatingly low, it’s safe to say that there are quite a few impressive examples of femmes calling the shots in TV.
So why can’t good old Tinseltown continue to do the same? That’s a question we’d all like to ask.